Home » Intelligent Design » New Scientist: “the first time evolution has been caught in the act”

New Scientist: “the first time evolution has been caught in the act”

In New Scientist we find the following article:

Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab

A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

This is in reference to the E. coli culture in Richard Lenski’s lab that after 20 years and 44,000 generations became able to digest the citrate in their agar. Nevermind that E. coli can normally digest citrate in anaerobic conditions and that being able to digest citrate in aerobic conditions is a very common ability in many different bacterial species. Also nevermind that aerobic citrate metabolism has been reported in E. coli before so this wasn’t the first time it “evolved”. Ignore the fact that E. coli already has a suite of enzymes to metabolize citrate and all it’s missing is a way of getting citrate molecules across its cell membrane in the presence of oxygen. Mike Behe already pointed out all these things which show what a trivial bit of evolution this really is and how it falls well inside the ability of random mutation & natural selection that he describes in “The Edge of Evolution”.

Nevermind all that. I want to focus on the statement in the subject line of my article here – how this is the first time evolution has been caught in the act.

So if this is the first time, what was all the so-called “overwhelming evidence” of evolution prior to the year 2008? The theory of evolution is being marketed like toothpaste. Now we have a new and improved product in that for the first time we really do have evidence of it. Like when Crest toothpaste gets a new formulation and is marketed as “new and improved”. We’re not supposed to think about how the old Crest that was being sold to us was really “old and inferior”.

Well folks, DO think about it. And do not “nevermind” how trivial the new evidence really is. This is a grand admission that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is 19th century junk science that was never supported by anything more than wishful thinking that science had provided an answer to one of nature’s deepest mysteries – the origin and diversification of life. This trivial bit of bacterial adaptation to a food source is being used like sandpaper in an attempt to polish the turd called evolutionary theory and just goes to show you can’t polish a turd.

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18 Responses to New Scientist: “the first time evolution has been caught in the act”

  1. Great post DaveScot, I agree is this all they got?

  2. Thanks for this Dave. Funny how New Scientist puts a different spin on it, calling it “making such a rare and complex new trait”. How complex is it actually? Does anyone know what actual mutations were involved in this?

  3. If what you say is true Dave, is it a not so subtle lie when New Scientist writes “the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.”

    Is it not rather that they gained the ability to admit, or lost the ability to exclude, citrate?

  4. idnet

    lost the ability to exclude

    Bingo! That’s the perfect way to put it. Give the man a cigar.

    I wrote elsewhere that there’s probably a really good reason why E. coli in vivo doesn’t eat citrate in aerobic conditions. Obviously it’s easy enough to acquire the capability. Lenski’s relatively few petri dishes compared to the number of these bacteria in the wild demonstrates how trivial it is. Something is missing in vitro – something that will quickly kill this citrate eating strain in vivo. I suspect (common sense talking here) there is some molecule in the wild that is toxic to E. coli wherein the structure of that molecule is too close to citrate for the membrane transport enzyme (citrate permease) to discriminate between the toxin and citrate. If Lenski has any interest in the truth of the matter he’ll reintroduce his laboratory strain back into the wild and see how long it survives.

  5. Well if they are confident this is indeed an increase of complexity I am sure they won’t mind performing a few test between it and its parent species. 1. A test for the range of substrates utilized bu each. 2. A fatty acid profile for each.

  6. When that E.Coli becomes a diatom or paramecium then they have a case for the Theory of E.

    Until then, despite the mutations and changes within the bacteria kind the E.Coli did not change into another kind of organism, did not develop male and female bacteria that could mate with each other.
    It was E.Coli when Lenski started, it remained E.Coli when he finished. His lab can carry out the experiment for 1000 years or more and it will still be E.Coli.

  7. This seems hardly to be the evolution of significant complexity. Lenski writes in his paper as follows.

    “What physiological mechanism has evolved that allows aerobic growth on citrate? E. coli should be able to use citrate as an energy source after it enters the cell, but it lacks a citrate transporter that functions in an oxygen-rich environment. One possibility is that the Cit lineage activated a ‘‘cryptic’’ transporter (41), that is, some once-functional gene that has been silenced by mutation ccumulation. This explanation seems unlikely to us because the Cit phenotype is characteristic of the entire species, one that is very diverse and therefore very old. We would expect a cryptic gene to be degraded beyond recovery after millions of years of disuse. A more likely possibility, in our view, is that an existing transporter has been coopted for citrate transport under oxic conditions. This transporter may previously have transported citrate under anoxic conditions (43) or, alternatively, it may have transported another substrate in the presence of oxygen. The evolved changes might involve gene
    regulation, protein structure, or both.”

  8. I don’t think any comments on this blog will chnage the privce of fish, especially as they come without references to previous work. What is really needed is for the Biologic Institute to get its teeth into this, and write a paper which can be peer reviewed and published.

  9. 9
    Granville Sewell

    Great post, Dave; see my follow-up post above.

  10. “…E. coli should be able to use citrate…” – This is all speculation. Lenski really has no idea what actually happened to bring this about. (Is the glass half full or half empty?) He only sees the end result and construes it to be “evolution-in-action”.

    I agree with Dave. Lenski should release his strain into the wild and attempt to observe how well it competes.

    The tendency for evolutionists to claim they understand all about “fill-in-the-blank” when the surface has only been scratched is tiresome. Some time later there will be a back pages story on “This wasn’t what we first thought” and it will be largely ignored; establishing the first conclusion in urban legend.

  11. 44,000 generations. Let’s see, humans theoretically split off from their ape-like ancestors 150,000 generations ago.

    Shouldn’t more be happening in 44,000 generations?

  12. Here’s a pdf version of Lenski’s article:

    http://myxo.css.msu.edu/lenski.....t%20al.pdf

  13. Great post on TE’s latest pathetic excuse for a major evolutionary shift.

    More evidence of just how desperate or foolish they are.

  14. 44,000 generations. Let’s see, humans theoretically split off from their ape-like ancestors 150,000 generations ago.

    Shouldn’t more be happening in 44,000 generations?

    johnnyb!!!!

    So nice to see you.

    I would be curious to know what proteins are considered unique to humans…

    PS
    Will I see you at ICC2008 or BSG2008.

  15. “A more likely possibility, in our view, is that an existing transporter has been coopted for citrate transport under oxic conditions.”

    That is my bet. If thats so, it looks like the xylitol example Lee Spetner used in his book. If the transporter is losing affinity to its former substrate, i agree with Spetner: this sort of thing is no big deal concerning an increase of information.

    It would be interesting if Spetner could write some comment on Lenski’s results. (does he have a site or something?)

  16. Thanks to New Scientist for all the hype. I suspect that science, used in the context of articles like this
    is simply a stalking-horse for something else. In fact, for two something-elses: an attempt to discredit ID and an attempt to undermine religious belief.
    Thanks to uncommondescent and to M.Behe for the balance !

  17. 17

    idnet.com.au said (#3),

    If what you say is true Dave, is it a not so subtle lie when New Scientist writes “the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.”

    Is it not rather that they gained the ability to admit, or lost the ability to exclude, citrate? (emphasis in original)

    New Scientist magazine’s statement is not really incorrect — the bacteria acquired the ability to metabolise (Brit spelling)citrate because they gained the ability to admit citrate. New Scientist’s statement just needs some elaboration or clarification at most.

    beancan5000 said (#6) –

    . . . despite the mutations and changes within the bacteria kind the E.Coli did not change into another kind of organism, did not develop male and female bacteria that could mate with each other.

    It was E.Coli when Lenski started, it remained E.Coli when he finished.

    Well, there may be some controversy over whether a new species was created if the definition of E. coli includes an inability to eat citrate. Carl Zimmer said,

    If E. coli is defined as a species that can’t eat citrate, does that mean that Lenski’s team has witnessed the origin of a new species? The question is actually murkier than it seems, because the traditional concept of species doesn’t fit bacteria very comfortably. (For the details, check out my new article on Scientific American, “What is a Species?”)

    Part of the definition of species is the ability to interbreed, but that part of the definition does not apply to bacteria. And the ability to interbreed is not a precise part of the definition of species — for example, lions and tigers can interbreed to produce ligers and tigons, and horses and donkeys can produce mules — though the offspring may be sterile.

    Lenski et al.’s paper has stirred controversy over at Conservapedia. Andy Schlafly, Conservapedia’s founder, is asking for the raw data from the study, and I have no idea why.

    We are still sorting out the significance of the paper but already some Darwinists are exulting that the paper proves evolution or disproves ID and Michael Behe. Behe in particular has been subjected to a lot of abuse.

  18. 18

    If E. coli is defined as a species that can’t eat citrate, does that mean that Lenski’s team has witnessed the origin of a new species

    Larry Farfarman: So if Humans are defined as a species that cannot digest lactose in the adult stage, does that mean lactose intolerant humans are a new species of human? Are they still even human or are they some other “kind”?

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